Article

Solar, alternative energy being pushed in Texas Legislature

For the last decade, when most people have thought of renewable energy in Texas, they have usually thought of wind. But this year, solar and other forms of renewable energy are starting to get a place at the table at the Legislature. Legislation including incentives and rebates could pave the way ...Today, legislators and environmentalists will hold statewide news conferences to draw attention to solar energy.

For the last decade, when most people have thought of renewable energy in Texas, they have usually thought of wind.

But this year, solar and other forms of renewable energy are starting to get a place at the table at the Legislature.

Legislation including incentives and rebates could pave the way for individuals and businesses to afford solar panels and spur a boom similar to the one that started with wind a decade ago.

Jim Duncan, owner of North Texas Renewable Energy in Fort Worth, said boosting incentives could jump-start his industry.

"If these incentives get passes, business is really going to take off," said Duncan, who has been installing solar panels for six years.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, believes that some type of solar legislation will be passed this session. Fraser, chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, helped craft wind legislation a decade ago.

"Before that legislation, it wasn't cost-effective in Texas," he said. "Now, we're the largest producer of wind energy in the United States - that's exactly what we're trying to do with solar."

Ron Hein of Fort Worth spent $26,000 to install 3 kilowatts of solar panels on his home, near the Cultural... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

For the last decade, when most people have thought of renewable energy in Texas, they have usually thought of wind.

But this year, solar and other forms of renewable energy are starting to get a place at the table at the Legislature.

Legislation including incentives and rebates could pave the way for individuals and businesses to afford solar panels and spur a boom similar to the one that started with wind a decade ago.

Jim Duncan, owner of North Texas Renewable Energy in Fort Worth, said boosting incentives could jump-start his industry.

"If these incentives get passes, business is really going to take off," said Duncan, who has been installing solar panels for six years.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, believes that some type of solar legislation will be passed this session. Fraser, chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, helped craft wind legislation a decade ago.

"Before that legislation, it wasn't cost-effective in Texas," he said. "Now, we're the largest producer of wind energy in the United States - that's exactly what we're trying to do with solar."

Ron Hein of Fort Worth spent $26,000 to install 3 kilowatts of solar panels on his home, near the Cultural District, in 2007 and '08. Hein said that the system has reduced his electricity costs by about 45 percent but that recouping the cost of the panels will take about 15 years. He said he could have saved a lot of money by installing the whole system at once.

Hein said incentives from the state and utilities could persuade more homeowners and businesses to follow his lead. "It's like an asset that's paying for itself," he said.

Fraser said he will hold hearings to build a consensus on solar legislation that should incorporate the best of all the current bills. Fraser's SB 545 and SB 546 call for establishing programs for, respectively, solar generation incentives and energy efficiency.

But myriad issues must be considered, from determining what incentives would work best to ensuring that individual solar panel users will get credit for any electricity they generate.

"There is nothing that is not on the table," Fraser said. "We are going to be training Texas in using energy more efficiently."

With the new presidential administration calling for 1 million plug-in cars on the road, Fraser would like to see incentives for parking garages with solar arrays where drivers could plug in their electric cars while they're at work.

Fraser also believes that wind farms, which often generate electricity at night, when demand is low, could help generate power for plug-in cars at night.

Other sources of energy may include geothermal and, in Fraser's case, nuclear.

He supports Luminant's proposal to double, to four, the number of reactors at Comanche Peak in Glen Rose. The proposal has drawn the ire of environmentalists and some residents.

But Fraser believes that solar power could prove ideal for businesses and municipalities.

"I really think a lot of the push will come from municipal buildings, state buildings and local governments," he said. "We've also heard from businesses like Wal-Mart and HEB that have expressed interest."

The Tarrant Regional Water District is already building what is being billed as the largest roof-mounted solar array in Texas: a 1,360-panel, 236-megawatt system that will cost $1.47 million and is expected to pay for itself in 20 years, Water District spokesman Chad Lorance said.

Last week, Austin Energy, the state capital's electric utility, announced that it wants to build one of the largest solar projects of its kind in the world. It could open by 2010, power as many as 5,000 homes and allow Austin Energy to stay on track to generate 30 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

"This is the year for solar in the Texas Legislature," said Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen. "We are in a race to become the manufacturing capital for solar energy in the United States. Right now, we are losing it to other states that have incentive programs."

Today, legislators and environmentalists will hold statewide news conferences to draw attention to solar energy.

"Wind has been a tremendous boon, but a lot of the wind in West Texas and on the coast blows at a certain time of day - it doesn't provide base power," said Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club. "Solar does give you a different time of day to generate electricity than wind. We also need to explore other ideas like geothermal. The idea is, we need other sources of energy."

BILL HANNA, 817-390-7698


Source: http://www.star-telegram.co...

FEB 2 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18880-solar-alternative-energy-being-pushed-in-texas-legislature
back to top